On Thu, Feb 11, 2016 at 5:42 PM, Pete Forsyth <petefors...@gmail.com> wrote:

> Did you notice MZMcBride's recent link, demonstrating that then-Executive
>> Director Sue Gardner asserted exactly the opposite, explicitly as policy?
>> To my knowledge, there has not been any new policy articulated to change
>> that; so even though it was 2011, I would understand this to still be WMF
>> policy.[1]
My understanding is that it was an expression of Sue's genuine intent, that
has not been consistently followed, nor made into a policy.

> I am also curious about the characterization of a $250k grant as
> "smaller." While there are certainly much larger grants, it seems to me
> that it being over the $100k threshold that subjects it to the WMF Gift
> Policy would naturally classify it as "larger." Certainly, when I worked in
> grant fund-raising for WMF it was unthinkable that we would ever accept a
> restricted grant for less than $100k; this was a firmly held principle. But
> perhaps that is another policy that has been changed (or forgotten?)

Well, for an organization with our budget, it definitely is not a "big
picture" grant. Of course a threshold has to be put somewhere. I'm not
aware of actual WMF classifications. I only referred to "large" as
"significantly affecting strategy".

> Many professionals who are deeply involved in the Wikimedia and open
> knowledge movements have already commented on this topic in great detail.
> There is strong consensus around the value of transparency; while there may
> be an opposing view (and while there are certainly some pieces of
> information that should not be published), I have yet to hear a generally
> anti-transparency view articulated. Have you?

I don't think it is transparency vs. non-transparency. Rather, it is
operational effectiveness vs. good communication with the community. Both
are important and being transparent is definitely something we should do

> I surveyed the views of the following individuals in my blog post last
> month:
> * Former WMF executive director Sue Gardner
> * Former WMF deputy director Erik Moller
> * WMF advisory board member (former?) Wayne Mackintosh
> * Mozilla executive director Mark Surman
> * Various members of the fund-raising and fund-disseminating departments
> of WMF, past and present
> http://wikistrategies.net/grant-transparency/
> There is a strong trend toward transparency in the philanthropy world. WMF
> has long been a guiding light in that trend in its grant-GIVING capacity,
> and in certain instances has reflected those values around the grant it
> receives as well.

I think this is very useful as a background, thanks for taking the time to
gather this!

> If there is a new, contrary policy -- or even a contrary predilection,
> beyond your own opinions as an individual trustee -- I think this is
> something that should be publicly stated.

I'm not aware of any policy of this sort, either way.

> Transparency is important, but it should not be reduced to the community
>> having access to all documents if it may impair our work.
> I agree with this, but it is a straw man. Nobody could reasonably expect
> ALL documents to be shared publicly (and if they have stated otherwise, I'm
> confident that is merely a kind of shorthand). The important conversation
> is about default positions; exceptions are always worth considering, and
> often justified.

My only point is that I have a feeling that perhaps there is more to do
outside of our microcosm.

> I do not believe those activities are opposed to more clearly articulating
> what has happened around the Knight grant. I believe those things overlap
> strongly; the board need not turn its attention from one to the other. The
> very core issue around the Knowledge Engine grant is that it seems to stray
> widely from the common understanding of the vision and the wider horizon.

I don't refer to Knight grant specifically. I refer to the general approach
- we lack the strategic vision and focus on issues that matter for this
organization's survival, and we zero in a grant that is worth 1/300 of its
budget disproportionately. The misunderstandings should be clarified, of

> Desirable, but not an absolute requirement. Our vision statement doesn't
> even require us to be a web site. There are many compromises that we should
> not make in pursuit of this goal.

sure, but you know what I mean. Surviving is not easy when you're a fat cat
used to being fine.

> we should focus externally more,
> Citation needed -- it seems there is very strong consensus lately that
> there are major problems within the Wikimedia Foundation. I hope that
> Trustees will not ignore these views, coming from a wide variety of
> respectable sources, with mere counter-assertion.

there is no citation needed, this is my opinion that to survive the next 10
years we should focus on what we need to do. Surely, we can improve the
foundation and processes. We can improve them a lot. But will this make the
difference for this big picture? If you believe so, then of course it is
essential to discuss it.

The Board naturally does perform oversight over the organization, too - but
what I'm saying is that there is a LOT OF discussion about the foundation
(needed) and A LITTLE about our future (desperately needed, though

> Wonderful to hear you say that. But the beyond individual statements like
> this, we have not heard from the organization about what kinds of mistakes
> were made with VE (or with other software deployments). As Asaf recently
> expressed [2] (earning much praise), it is highly valuable, when a mistake
> is made, to acknowledge it in some detail, and in a way that respects the
> depth of the mistake. Without such an expression, it is hard to have shared
> confidence that lessons have been learned; and without learning, it is
> indeed hard to move forward.

I agree that learning from mistakes and public reflection in such cases is
much needed and basically useful - not to apportion the blame, but to
understand and avoid in the future.

However, I have a feeling that our culture of discussion now is really
pretty much hostile - there is a lot of animosity, bad will assumptions,
and us vs. them mentality, every now and then. This is also an INTERNAL
problem that should be addressed - but addressing it will not likely change
the big picture neither :)

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